Jul 22 2022

Hybrid Cloud Unlocks the Power of Clinical Data Management

Hybrid cloud platforms offer healthcare organizations scalability that can be difficult and expensive to replicate on-premises.

When it comes to the management of rapidly expanding volumes of clinical data, hybrid cloud solutions, which combine public and private cloud environments, are uniquely suited to help. Hybrid cloud solutions can reduce an organization’s data center footprint, consolidate data silos, and provide backup and disaster recovery solutions.

Scott Raymond, NetApp’s CIO for global healthcare, says that when deploying a hybrid cloud solution, the first thing to determine is which data management platform it will run on — for example, NetApp’s ONTAP platform.

“In a hybrid solution, I can manage the data in the cloud the same way I do in my data center, and I can literally drag and drop workloads and move them seamlessly across the cloud through a private cloud and back on-premises,” he explains.

If an organization has multiple management systems, that makes copying data, doing recovery or pulling data back from the cloud more difficult because multiple tools are being used.

“If it’s all on one platform, it’s just easier to manage,” he says. “Until now, we didn’t really have a destination for those clinical workloads in the cloud.”

DISCOVER: How NetApp simplifies the cloud and delivers the right patient data securely.

Considerations for Hybrid Cloud Management in Healthcare

Raymond says now that it’s become established, the cloud offers the ability to scale performance and storage and right-size environments for high-performing critical workloads like electronic health records systems with a turn of a knob.

“That’s important with an EHR because those relational databases are growing rapidly,” he says. “Health systems can now manage their data on a single platform in a hyperscaler, which doesn’t require them to purchase equipment and install it.”

Raymond explains that with Amazon FSx for ONTAP, healthcare organizations can migrate applications to Amazon Web Services without rearchitecting or refactoring, and enable cloud-based backup and disaster recovery while protecting data and ensuring compliance.

NetApp also offers ONTAP data management for Microsoft Azure through a jointly engineered service called Azure NetApp Files, as well as for Google Cloud. The companies are working together to create a toolkit of integrated services.

“There’s a high value in using the best data management platform that you can, but if you aren’t able to consolidate your patient data under a single platform, it becomes very hard to leverage the cloud,” he says.

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He adds that the second thing healthcare organizations must do is deeply understand their environments.

“In this scenario of application rationalization, you look at all applications and you’ve documented the applications to determine if they can run in the cloud natively or whether they must be lifted and shifted,” he says.

Raymond notes that most healthcare applications aren’t cloud-native, and that there will be some refactoring involved.

“Honestly, a lot of that work doesn’t get done, and so that evaluation to determine if everything should be consolidated onto a single management platform doesn’t happen before migrating to the cloud,” he says. “Have you done an evaluation of all your applications that support the business, and are they cloud ready or not? What does that look like?”

This also includes determining what should and should not be running in the cloud. As Raymond points out, some cloud-run applications can be expensive.

“Some things will run at the edge, and some things will run on a small footprint in the core,” he says. “But I’m confident that if I were running a health system right now with one of our two first-party offerings, I could literally pick up my data center and plop it into a hyperscaler and run it the same way I do now.”

EXPLORE: How to find the right cloud solution for small healthcare organizations.

The Future of the Hybrid Cloud in Healthcare

Raymond adds that soon, as tools such as machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence become integrated into hybrid cloud data management platforms, they will be “game changers” that can harness the full power of the cloud.

“This is true not only in the day-to-day management through automation — taking mundane tasks out of the hands of the database administrators or the application analysts — but machine learning, where we analyze clinical data to either rule out normals or rule in abnormals,” he says.

Raymond says the goal is for clinicians and the larger healthcare industry to get to a point where data is ingested, analyzed and presented in a way that enables predictive medicine.

“I would know that you had this disease process and you’re presenting with these symptoms, then I could cross-check that with a database of a million patients to determine the treatment modalities we have found to have the most efficacy,” he says. “Then we can solve problems in the human body before they happen. That’s the goal. We’re in the infancy of it, but it’s coming.”

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